A Time of Royalty

04.04.2011

STYLE

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is one of the most iconic timepieces in the world. Not just because of who’s worn one, which includes several heads of state, most major film stars, and a world-record holder or two, but because of what the Royal Oak meant to the watch industry at the time, how it saved AP from bankruptcy and how it changed the look of watches forever

The first Royal Oak (reference 5402) was introduced to the world in 1972. It was Audemars Piguet’s last chance at surviving one of the roughest periods in the company’s century-old history. What made the first Royal Oak so risky was that it was constructed entirely out of stainless steel yet cost more than any gold watch the Swiss brand was producing at the time. In fact, when the Royal Oak was released, it had a retail price of roughly $3,200 compared to Rolex’s Submariner, which had a retail price of $270. The Royal Oak was, without debate, enormously expensive. But that was the point.

It wasn’t just the price of the Royal Oak that raised eyebrows, it was the design – most people believed it would be the watch and the company’s downfall. The octagonal bezel, shaped like a ship’s porthole with eight visible hexagonal screws, caused customers of more traditional luxury watches to gawk and wonder “For $3,200, they can’t even hide the screws?” The case was made from a single block of steel to ensure water-tightness, and it was the first time a bracelet had been integrated into the case. At the time, Audemars Piguet was only producing 5,000 watches per year, and when they launched the Royal Oak, they did it in a series of 1,000 pieces. If the Royal Oak had failed, the company would have gone bankrupt. Luckily, all 1,000 A-series Royal Oaks sold quickly. Suddenly, it became en vogue to wear a steel sport watch that cost more than a gold Patek Philippe.

The watch sold so well, in fact, that Patek Philippe even hired the very same designer, Gerald Genta, to build them their own steel sport watch. Thus came the Nautilus in 1976, which again featured boating-inspired design and even the same movement. Since the release of the original Royal Oak, nicknamed the “Jumbo”, AP has launched several derivations – chronographs, dual-times, even grand complications. AP’s most popular model, the Royal Oak Offshore still has many of the same attributes of the original Jumbo. But, for purists, AP continues to make the original Royal Oak just as they did in 1972. The reference 15202 Royal Oak features the very same movement and the very same case as the original, now with a sapphire exhibition back. This watch is the backbone of Audemars Piguet, making it the one collectors vie for.

Last year, AP only made ten Royal Oak Jumbos, so few that you can’t even see them in boutiques. With 2012 marking the 40th anniversary of the Royal Oak, the watch that changed everything for AP, so you can be sure they are only going to become tougher to find. If you want to get your hands on a true Royal Oak, call your AP dealer as soon as possible – but be prepared to wait a long time. (audemarspiguet.com)

44 Responses to A Time of Royalty

  1. Atif says:

    Great job, Ben! Really well written.

  2. Atif says:

    Great job, Ben! Really well written.

  3. Awesome website. Very clean. Check out http://www.streetdigest.com for the hood news and the stuff regular people can afford.

  4. dekadaye says:

    i’m going to love this site 🙂

  5. Nice website different set up from all the other ones.

  6. Nice website different set up from all the other ones.

  7. His Majezty says:

    You guys need to hire me. I was talking about Royal Oak in 1993 when Jay-Z was still in Hawaiian shirts – @HisMajezty
    http://twitter.com/HisMajezty

  8. Andre says:

    Intriguing….Point well assessed.

  9. @theteamwayne says:

    My time piece Timeless

  10. Recommended this watch today. Don’t know if it’s better then the Cartier I have my eye on or a Patek Philippe, but definitely a cool unique watch.

  11. Dominik says:

    I’d like to know more about the person that was responsible for putting their companies future on one product.

    A bold move that seems to have paid off.

  12. Cliff Haack says:

    Clean, subtle, and exact… what a time piece should be

  13. 924 says:

    AP is the best luxury watch brand out there in terms of manly aethestics and complexity!

  14. Noble Blood says:

    This is a great story. I enjoy the history of fashion: I always wondered why people loved APs!

  15. First time I heard of this watch and I see why people do what they do for eclussive pieces.

    Tight!

  16. This is one of the best webpages ever.

  17. Peter Lim says:

    legend……………………

  18. I LOVE NICE THINGS IF YOU SHOULD TO

  19. Money…… The only word that descibes this…

  20. Gyasi Snuggs says:

    I’m a fanatic for watches. this watch… is a f’kn statement; straight, “F’k you n’66@$!” (half a bar. LoL)

  21. love this watch they more a watch it time is just a watch so hot i love it

  22. I love watches!! I would love to purchase a Audemars! The Royal Oak collection is definitely a classic!

  23. WAT DA HELLS A HUBLO???????????????

  24. supper sweet.. i wonder where i can get 1 here in south Africa

  25. Royal Oak Offshore Volcano….that is where you want to b.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I like this site very informative!

  27. a clean and confident watch like this will never go out of style.

  28. ernest says:

    Nice watch..too expensive to just tell time. Plus mine freezes (hidden behind all these big rocks). Y U no visit Kenya and u overly famous here!!

  29. Cartier is alright, I guess…if you’re in banking. The watches don’t transition well. AP, Richard Mille, A Lange & Sohne, and of course, the World Time from Patek Philippe…these are true transition watches….you can take them from bedroom to boardroom to ballroom, and not miss a beat.

  30. Jay Roze' says:

    A nice watch is essential.. & Yes it should reflect your style but if you can afford the name, why not invest in the quality too. ‘A man without a watch is a man with NOTHING to do’

    MantraHouseLife . com

  31. Anonymous says:

    No alligator strap? Rap about it now…hope you get it later.

  32. had a chance to visit the Royal Oak anniversary exhibit in New York in March, was amazing to see the development of the line and all the rare ones in the same place.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Thin is in and when your talking about steel its stronger as well

  34. A nice piece this Royal Oak, although, in my book, still doesn’t beat an IWC Portugeser or a Panerai Luminare

    • Anonymous says:

      Comparing an AP to a brand like IWC and Panerai is like comparing a premium RR to a middle class Mercedes or BMW

  35. LO Lutero says:

    T1CK:T0CK

  36. Extremador says:

    For the price you’d pay to be able to find one of these you might as well just pay someone to turn a block of steel (or titanium) into a watch for you and have a one of a kind item.

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